4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.1 Corinthians 1:4 (NIV)
I woke before dawn today because my wife’s cell phone alarm regularly goes off at 5 AM. It’s not something I generally mind because over the course of the last forty years, I routinely got up for work at that time – and still do, though not to commute to a job. Working for forty years, including military service, odd jobs and in industry, I feel very much that God had a hand in taking care of my family. My spouse and I now work together in our own business, a few days a week.
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.2 Corinthians 9: 10 -11 (NIV)
This week, “gratitude” has been dominating my thoughts. Am I still grateful for my salvation? Grateful for my life as a disciple of Jesus Christ? What am I grateful for? Meeting this week with an old friend and Brother-in-Christ from Britain, we talked about the zeal of the church and the strong relationships of the members he lead in Belfast. That church, in the four years since we visited, had tripled in size. Their small church has college students, families, and newly-married members. He, then had been asked then to help stimulate closer fellowship and invigorate another church in the U.K. We discussed some of the things that spurred our “empty nester” fellowship to mentor and draw closer to the younger families. A devotional in men’s fellowship in the past weeks, on gratitude, helped spur some ideas that I brought to our service today. (I lead the ushers serving our region-wide congregational service a few times a year.)
24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”1 Peter 2: 24 (NIV)
Because of an international conference in San Diego, I got to spend some time with that British evangelist, I mentioned earlier, and with a couple old friends, yesterday over lunch. What we all realize is that life is difficult. Health concerns, the incredibly high cost of living in places our jobs put us, and working among people who are very different in their ideals, mores, opinions, and values. In a ministry that relies on smaller group fellowships, “bible talks”, we seek advice to help spur people who have not been spiritually-challenged in some time. We need to be thankful to our Father, for the ones we study the Bible with and whose hearts turn to God; with others we counsel and who counsel us on living out the calling that Jesus gave us. And somethings are painful, such as a family member going through a health or life ‘crisis’ due to choices they made. When these are adults, you can advise only when they ask for advice.
For many in my age group, so-called Empty Nesters, our prayers increase as does our stress watching our adult children, who don’t share our convictions of a faith-centered life, make tough choices and mistakes. I spent my first 40 years believing God was aloof to my ups and downs. I do not want this for my family. For the last twenty years, in Christ, the mistakes I made were healed because of God’s Grace working through my humility. One of the things I am mindful of, is the passage where Jesus heals the ten lepers (nine of whom are “God’s Chosen people”) but only the one, a Samaritan, returns, in gratitude to thank Jesus for being healed. Am I that guy, who Jesus heals, but I don’t always think to say “thank you” for it?
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[b] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”Luke 17: 11 -17 (NIV)